Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and student accommodation providers

Published: 11 Sep 2020
Last updated: 24 Sep 2020 - see all updates

Guidance for higher and further education institutions and student accommodation providers to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): universities, colleges and student accommodation providers
Student accommodation

Student accommodation 

Providers should adopt practices and procedures to reduce as far as possible the risk of COVID-19 transmission while students move into their accommodation.

Providers and students should:

  • work together to plan for varied arrival times for moving into accommodation, thereby supporting physical distancing
  • agree measures to be followed in advance of a student moving into their accommodation to ensure the health and safety of students, staff and visitors. This will include adherence to measures on the number of visitors who can assist students with a move
  • ensure everyone involved in any aspect of the arrival process follows government guidelines on physical distancing, handwashing and the use of face coverings to minimise the spread of the virus. Students and providers should keep up to date with current advice on keeping yourself and others safe

Providers should ensure that all students have access to Wi-Fi in accommodation to enable them to access college and university wellbeing and counselling services as well as online learning. Providers should also provide local information regarding access to GP registration, outdoor spaces and third sector services. Students should plan their travel to accommodation in advance, and should check the advice on travelling safely before undertaking any journeys in connection with moving into accommodation.

Students must not travel if they have symptoms of COVID-19 or are coming from an area where no non-essential travel is permitted.

Forming student households

The formation of student households or groupings is a crucial measure to mitigate the risk of infection and reduce the size of any outbreaks which may occur.

It is vital that these groups are adhered to with no change to the day to day living arrangements of previously formed and agreed households.  Keeping household groupings together can make detection and necessary isolation measures easier.

People should stay 2m away from those who are not in their household.

The placement of students within households is at the discretion of the accommodation provider, although providers should give consideration to student preferences and requests regarding household composition.

Where accommodation is provided in the form of flats with shared cooking and bathroom facilities each cluster flatwill normally be considered a household.

If student accommodation is provided in a different format, for example longer corridors of single rooms, the composition of householdwill be informed by the areas shared by groups of students. In these circumstances, the size of the household should be considered carefully to ensure students can access facilities safely and in line with physical distancing guidelines.

Members of the same household do not need to physically distance from each other but should stay 2m away from people from other households. Regular hand washing and good cough and sneeze etiquette are crucial in reducing the risk of transmission and infection.

Face coverings should be worn in some parts of student accommodation where 2m distance from people from another household cannot be guaranteed. This includes corridors and some shared facilities such as laundries and common rooms. It does not include kitchens and bathrooms shared by multiple households, where other mitigations including 2m physical distancing and enhanced cleaning and personal hygiene measures should be in place.

Providers should provide clear guidance to individual students on which bathrooms and/or kitchens are intended for their use; supporting the definition of household if circumstances require self-isolation. Providers should ensure enhanced cleaning regimes for all shared areas of cluster flats and should ensure that residents are informed of the requirement to clean these before and after use.

Providers should ensure that, where Resident Advisors are employed in accommodation settings, they are fully briefed on the requirements set out in this guidance.

Accommodation providers should enable flexibility in the accommodation setting as far as is safely possible, in order to promote and enhance student wellbeing. If a student wishes to move from one household to another, the accommodation provider should ensure that the risk of spread of COVID-19 is reduced as far as possible. The provider may decide additional measures are required.

Providers should ensure that appropriate risk assessments have been carried out to ensure the safety of staff who may be required to access student accommodation, such as cleaners or maintenance workers. Providers should consider limiting the number of staff required to service each household, and for example limiting the number of student households serviced by a single cleaner. Risk assessments should be reassessed following developments in government and/or public health guidance. Should an outbreak occur, it will be important for providers and students to work together to make information available in support of the Test and Protect approach.

Shared facilities

Households should be limited in size to ensure students can access kitchens, cleaning and washing facilities, and other shared spaces safely and in line with physical distancing guidelines. Where cleaning services are not provided by the provider, students should be given the appropriate resources and instruction on how to keep shared areas clean. Accommodation providers and students share the responsibility for keeping shared areas clean.

Shared bathrooms present one of the biggest risks for increased spread of the virus. Where communal toilets are available outside of households, providers should implement measures to decrease this risk as far as possible. This should include increased cleaning, and may include reducing access to a one in, one out basis. Cleaning materials should also be provided for users to clean as they go.

Appropriate signage should be clearly visible and promote good hygiene standards, following the latest guidance.

If a student residing in catered accommodation is shielding or self-isolating, and is unable to access catering services, the provider should ensure the student has access to food.

First published: 11 Sep 2020 Last updated: 24 Sep 2020 -